Here's something to keep in mind as the NFL draft approaches: The 49ers generally will not telegraph their moves.
Each NFL team is allowed to bring in up to 30 draft prospects for visits. The 49ers will have representatives at nearly every pro day across the country. And they will also have private workouts with many of the draft-eligible athletes.
Of course, the 49ers will have some level of interest in every player they bring through the doors of their team facility in Santa Clara.
But, often, their exact level of interest will not be determined until they meet the kid, quiz him on his football knowledge and get a grasp of his personality and character.
Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke will also be careful to conceal their interest in any dealings with the player and his agent. If there is genuine interest in a player, they don't want that information getting out. And the quickest way for that information to become a published report is by telling the player and/or his agent that they aim to draft him.
Here is what some of the picks in the first two Baalke-Harbaugh drafts knew about the 49ers' level of interest before those drafts:
Aldon Smith, first round, 2011: He visited the 49ers, but they did not lead on what they were thinking. "After I left that visit I definitely didn't know I was going to be picked at No. 7 or that they really had that much interest."
A.J. Jenkins, first round, 2012: The wide receiver enjoyed his visit with the 49ers but did not know he would be a target in the first round. "Wow. Honestly I didn't know where I was going to end up. . . I didn't know the phone call was going to come so soon. I'm just so honored and blessed to be in this position. Wow, crazy."
Colin Kaepernick, second round, 2011: Kaepernick and Harbaugh had a private workout in Reno. Then, the 49ers canceled a planned Kaepernick visit to Santa Clara, perhaps because they did not want to attract too much attention to their involvement with him. The 49ers traded up to select Kaepernick early on the second day of the draft. "I heard a little rumor early in the day, but it was just depending on whether it was going to work out. I'm very excited it did."
LaMichael James, second round, 2012: "I just talked to them when I was at the combine, but other than that it was pretty much nothing else."
Chris Culliver, third round, 2011: When asked if he had an idea the 49ers would draft him, Culliver said, "I didn't know. I was definitely surprised but Jim Harbaugh definitely told me he was very interested in me and I'm definitely glad I took the trip up there because I felt like I showed what type of character I have and just to get to know everybody."
Kendall Hunter, fourth round, 2011: Hunter visited the 49ers before the draft but received no indication of the 49ers' level of interest. "I was just happy to be around a great environment like that, how they run things over there and their running backs coach (Tom Rathman) taught me a lot, just being in the room with him, the 10-15 minutes that I was in there."
Joe Looney, fourth round, 2012: He met with the 49ers at the NFL scouting combine. But that was it. When asked if he had an indication the 49ers would draft him, he said, "No, I didn’t. When I got done with my interview at the combine, coach Harbaugh told me he really liked me. He said I could be a 49er and I just thanked him for that opportunity."
Daniel Kilgore, fifth round, 2011: Kilgore had no contact with the 49ers until a 2 1/2-hour talk with offensive line coach Mike Solari via Skype. "The first time I met with the 49ers was last week," Kilgore said upon getting selected. "I had a pretty good meeting with (Solari). San Francisco came on late. They didn't talk to me the whole time."
Darius Fleming, fifth round, 2012: "I had a little meeting with one of their scouts before my combine, but nothing big."
Trenton Robinson, sixth round, 2012: Robinson spoke on the phone with a scout (he didn't remember which scout). "I had actually talked to them a couple days before the draft and they said they liked me and they asked me some questions and told me they would definitely be drafting a safety. I was excited then. I was thinking they would be the team."
Bruce Miller, seventh round, 2011: Miller was a defensive end in college. He performed some drills at his pro day at fullback, but he was shocked at the news he was projected on the offensive side of the ball when he got a call from Rathman. "Right before the draft I spoke to the running backs coach and he let me know they did have me in there at fullback. That's the first time since the NFL combine that I spoke with some of the coaches there."